Zoo Wrocław says that the tiny Sulawesi Bear Cuscus born there recently is the first documented zoo birth of this rare species.
According to the Zoo, only four zoological gardens in the world are part of its conservation-breeding program. This is a truly extraordinary birth, because the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus is a little-known species, it has been extremely difficult to breed.
On March 16, 2018, Zoo Wroclaw’s small mammal keepers noticed a newborn in the pouch of the female Cuscus. Although it had been suspected for a few weeks, this discovery electrified all employees and caused an explosion of joy.
This is a milestone in saving the species, giving hope for its survival. There are only 13 Cuscus in four zoos around the world: in Batu Secret in Java (Indonesia), Pairi Daiza in Belgium, Ústí nad Labem in the Czech Republic and at Wrocław, in Poland.
The cub rarely comes out of the mother's pouch, usually only sticking out its head and tiny hands, or sometimes just the tail. For now, its diet consists only of mother's milk.
Zoo staff also confidently stated they are “99% sure the baby is a male”.
The birth of the tiny Cuscus is a global breeding success. A success like this takes time and team effort to create optimal living conditions – a proper enclosure, special diet and professional caregivers. As previously mentioned, Cuscus biology is unknown. The Zoo says little is known about their diet, and almost nothing about reproduction. It is only suspected they are monogamous, so a happy match is neither simple nor reliable.
Now, the keepers are excited to collect data on Cuscus rearing and share this knowledge with colleagues from other zoological gardens, to help ensure effective breeding, and the stability of the population of these amazing marsupials in the future.
The Sulawesi Bear Cuscus (Ailurops ursinus) is a species of arboreal marsupial in the family Phalangeridae. It is endemic to Sulawesi and nearby islands in Indonesia.
It lives in tropical moist lowland forest and is diurnal, folivorous and often found in pairs.
The species is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List. It is threatened by hunting, collection for the pet trade and deforestation. According to the IUCN: “It is widespread and common in suitable habitat. A density estimate (based on line transects) of 2.0 individuals/km2 was reported for North Sulawesi in the 1993-1994 (O'Brien and Kinnaird 1996). This species, however, was at one time much more plentiful. From 1979-1994, there had been a 95% decline in Tangkoko-DuaSudara Nature Reserve due to hunting and this decline may be indicative of trends for North Sulawesi (O'Brien and Kinnaird 1996). This decline is only getting worse due to hunting and the pet trade (M. Kinnaird pers. comm.).”